This book is a rather biased introduction to Western philosophy through short comments on twelve of its greatest representatives. Some very important names have been left out, like Leibniz, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche or Quine.
There has been a lot of `silence' about how Socrates corrupted the Athenian youth. Perhaps, we can find the answer in Xenophon. In his `Conversations with Socrates', he writes: `Where offices were filled by men who satisfied the legal requirements, he considered the institution to be an aristocracy; where they were filled in accordance with a property qualification, a plutocracy; where they were filled by anybody, a democracy.' In other words, Socrates was an anti-democrat. (It is not correct to state that `Socrates was too democratic for the Athenians.')
This anti-democratic stance was not a minor affair, as we can also read in Xenophon (`A History of My Times'): the Thirty (oligarchs) `went on a killing spree, murdering all democratic opponents, more Athenians than all the Peloponnesians did in ten years of war.'
Plato also attacked relentlessly the `democratic beast' in his works. R. Williams calls it his `unashamed autocratic temperament'.
As R. Bendix notes in his portrait of Max Weber: `Occidental religion could never resolve the paradox of an imperfect world created by a perfect God.'
Spinoza tried also, but failed miserably. For him, there is only one substance, God, with infinitely many attributes, like body and mind. Because God is identical with nature, nothing in the world is free (we have to be cheerful!)
But, how about good and evil in the real world? His answer: Man has inadequate and confuse perceptions,
For R. Scruton, superstition has cloaked itself in the name of science. But, is all this `religious stuff' all over the world not superstition? The religious (superstitious) fight one another like mad in the name of God for `secular' power.
For Heidegger `all truth is relative to Daseins's being'. For him, `before Newton's laws were discovered, they were not `true'.' Of course, they were true, they existed. Newton only discovered and formulated them.
For R. Rorty, objective truth is completely illusory. But, truth is correspondence with the facts (A. Tarski). Of course, we don't know all the facts.
(Meta-) language is only one way (a good one) to report (human understanding) on the truth (the facts). Other means are doing, experiencing, experimenting, thinking, feeling, calculating, looking. As the great philosopher W.V.O. Quine said, `this much is quite properly a problem involving language. But what there is is another question.'
The body-mind problem (Descartes, Berkeley, Heidegger, Wittgenstein)
This problem can be resolved by one stroke of a pen.
In a famous interview for the BBC with Bryan Magee, W.V.O. Quine said, ``Processes (like emotions) in physical objects (people) are always accompanied by microphysical changes. In fact, they are those changes.'
Another brilliant scholar, Lee Smolin wrote that `space and time are not continuous, but discrete; that the world is made of processes, not things; and that the world is nothing more than an evolving network of relationships, of which causality is the most important.'
This idea (physicalism) is, of course, far too revolutionary to be taught everywhere in school, because it annihilates one of the most important power bases in the world.
In his masterly biography of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk shows clearly that for Wittgenstein the most important issue in philosophy was `ethics' and that his language obsessions only aimed at formulating clear formulations about ethical questions.
An excellent introduction to Popper's work has been written by Bryan Magee.
`The Poverty of Historicism' is not his best work.
By the way, F. Fukuyama's `The End of History" is not a Popperian book. It is based on a re-interpretation of Hegel by Alexandre Kojève, who claims that desire for recognition and prestige is the central issue in man's life. This latter idea Kojève `loaned' from the German psychiatrist Alfred Adler.
The excellent article on Turing by Andrew Hodges is a shorter version of his monograph.
For a devastating verdict of post-modernism, with which certain authors here seem to be in love, see Guido Giacomo Preparata.
By far, the best introduction to Western philosophy is the book by Bryan Magee with the same name.